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1.  Functional screening of willow alleles in Arabidopsis combined with QTL mapping in willow (Salix) identifies SxMAX4 as a coppicing response gene 
Plant Biotechnology Journal  2014;12(4):480-491.
Willows (Salix spp.) are important biomass crops due to their ability to grow rapidly with low fertilizer inputs and ease of cultivation in short-rotation coppice cycles. They are relatively undomesticated and highly diverse, but functional testing to identify useful allelic variation is time-consuming in trees and transformation is not yet possible in willow. Arabidopsis is heralded as a model plant from which knowledge can be transferred to advance the improvement of less tractable species. Here, knowledge and methodologies from Arabidopsis were successfully used to identify a gene influencing stem number in coppiced willows, a complex trait of key biological and industrial relevance. The strigolactone-related More AXillary growth (MAX) genes were considered candidates due to their role in shoot branching. We previously demonstrated that willow and Arabidopsis show similar response to strigolactone and that transformation rescue of Arabidopsis max mutants with willow genes could be used to detect allelic differences. Here, this approach was used to screen 45 SxMAX1, SxMAX2, SxMAX3 and SxMAX4 alleles cloned from 15 parents of 11 mapping populations varying in shoot-branching traits. Single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) frequencies were locus dependent, ranging from 29.2 to 74.3 polymorphic sites per kb. SxMAX alleles were 98%–99% conserved at the amino acid level, but different protein products varying in their ability to rescue Arabidopsis max mutants were identified. One poor rescuing allele, SxMAX4D, segregated in a willow mapping population where its presence was associated with increased shoot resprouting after coppicing and colocated with a QTL for this trait.
PMCID: PMC4238783  PMID: 24393130
Arabidopsis; allelic diversity; mutant rescue; Salix; QTL; strigolactone
2.  Moving beyond the GM Debate 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(6):e1001887.
A secure, environmentally sustainable food supply is agreed to be a vital priority. In this Perspective, Ottoline Leyser explains why she believes that progress toward this important goal is side-tracked by unproductive debates about the role of genetic modification.
Once again, there are calls to reopen the debate on genetically modified (GM) crops. I find these calls frustrating and unnecessarily decisive. In my opinion the GM debate, on both sides, continues to hamper the urgent need to address the diverse and pressing challenges of global food security and environmental sustainability. The destructive power of the debate comes from its conflation of unrelated issues, coupled with deeply rooted misconceptions of the nature of agriculture.
PMCID: PMC4051613  PMID: 24914954
3.  Paralogous Radiations of PIN Proteins with Multiple Origins of Noncanonical PIN Structure 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2014;31(8):2042-2060.
The plant hormone auxin is a conserved regulator of development which has been implicated in the generation of morphological novelty. PIN-FORMED1 (PIN) auxin efflux carriers are central to auxin function by regulating its distribution. PIN family members have divergent structures and cellular localizations, but the origin and evolutionary significance of this variation is unresolved. To characterize PIN family evolution, we have undertaken phylogenetic and structural analyses with a massive increase in taxon sampling over previous studies. Our phylogeny shows that following the divergence of the bryophyte and lycophyte lineages, two deep duplication events gave rise to three distinct lineages of PIN proteins in euphyllophytes. Subsequent independent radiations within each of these lineages were taxonomically asymmetric, giving rise to at least 21 clades of PIN proteins, of which 15 are revealed here for the first time. Although most PIN protein clades share a conserved canonical structure with a modular central loop domain, a small number of noncanonical clades dispersed across the phylogeny have highly divergent protein structure. We propose that PIN proteins underwent sub- and neofunctionalization with substantial modification to protein structure throughout plant evolution. Our results have important implications for plant evolution as they suggest that structurally divergent PIN proteins that arose in paralogous radiations contributed to the convergent evolution of organ systems in different land plant lineages.
PMCID: PMC4104312  PMID: 24758777
auxin; auxin transport; PIN protein; plant evolution; phylogeny; protein structure
4.  Strigolactone Can Promote or Inhibit Shoot Branching by Triggering Rapid Depletion of the Auxin Efflux Protein PIN1 from the Plasma Membrane 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(1):e1001474.
Shoot branching is regulated by competition between branches to export the phytohormone auxin into the main stem. The phytohormone strigolactone balances shoot system growth by making auxin export harder to establish, thus modulating the auxin transport network.
Plants continuously extend their root and shoot systems through the action of meristems at their growing tips. By regulating which meristems are active, plants adjust their body plans to suit local environmental conditions. The transport network of the phytohormone auxin has been proposed to mediate this systemic growth coordination, due to its self-organising, environmentally sensitive properties. In particular, a positive feedback mechanism termed auxin transport canalization, which establishes auxin flow from active shoot meristems (auxin sources) to the roots (auxin sinks), has been proposed to mediate competition between shoot meristems and to balance shoot and root growth. Here we provide strong support for this hypothesis by demonstrating that a second hormone, strigolactone, regulates growth redistribution in the shoot by rapidly modulating auxin transport. A computational model in which strigolactone action is represented as an increase in the rate of removal of the auxin export protein, PIN1, from the plasma membrane can reproduce both the auxin transport and shoot branching phenotypes observed in various mutant combinations and strigolactone treatments, including the counterintuitive ability of strigolactones either to promote or inhibit shoot branching, depending on the auxin transport status of the plant. Consistent with this predicted mode of action, strigolactone signalling was found to trigger PIN1 depletion from the plasma membrane of xylem parenchyma cells in the stem. This effect could be detected within 10 minutes of strigolactone treatment and was independent of protein synthesis but dependent on clathrin-mediated membrane trafficking. Together these results support the hypothesis that growth across the plant shoot system is balanced by competition between shoot apices for a common auxin transport path to the root and that strigolactones regulate shoot branching by modulating this competition.
Author Summary
Plants can adapt their form to suit the environment in which they are growing. For example, genetically identical plants can develop as a single unbranched stem or as a highly ramified bush. This broad developmental potential is possible because the shoot system is produced continuously by growing tips, known as shoot meristems. Meristems produce the stem and leaves of a shoot, and at the base of each leaf, a new meristem is formed. This meristem can remain dormant as a small bud or activate to produce a branch. Thus, the shoot system is a community of shoot meristems, the combined activity and inactivity of which shape shoot form. Here we provide evidence that growth is balanced across the Arabidopsis shoot system by competition between the shoot meristems. This competition is likely mediated by the requirement of meristems to export the plant hormone auxin in order to activate bud outgrowth. In our model, auxin in the main stem, exported from active branches, can prevent auxin export by dormant buds, thus preventing their activation. Our findings show that a second hormone, strigolactone, increases the level of competition between branches by making auxin export harder to establish. Together, these hormones balance growth across the shoot system, adjusting it according to the environmental conditions in which a plant is growing.
PMCID: PMC3558495  PMID: 23382651
5.  Mutation of the cytosolic ribosomal protein-encoding RPS10B gene affects shoot meristematic function in Arabidopsis 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:160.
Plant cytosolic ribosomal proteins are encoded by small gene families. Mutants affecting these genes are often viable, but show growth and developmental defects, suggesting incomplete functional redundancy within the families. Dormancy to growth transitions, such as the activation of axillary buds in the shoot, are characterised by co-ordinated upregulation of ribosomal protein genes.
A recessive mutation in RPS10B, one of three Arabidopsis genes encoding the eukaryote-specific cytoplasmic ribosomal protein S10e, was found to suppress the excessive shoot branching mutant max2-1. rps10b-1 mildly affects the formation and separation of shoot lateral organs, including the shoot axillary meristems. Axillary meristem defects are enhanced when rps10b-1 is combined with mutations in REVOLUTA, AUXIN-RESISTANT1, PINOID or another suppressor of max2-1, FAR-RED ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL3. In some of these double mutants, the maintenance of the primary shoot meristem is also affected. In contrast, mutation of ALTERED MERISTEM PROGRAMME1 suppresses the rps10b-1axillary shoot defect. Defects in both axillary shoot formation and organ separation were enhanced by combining rps10b-1 with cuc3, a mutation affecting one of three Arabidopsis NAC transcription factor genes with partially redundant roles in these processes. To assess the effect of rps10b-1 on bud activation independently from bud formation, axillary bud outgrowth on excised cauline nodes was analysed. The outgrowth rate of untreated buds was reduced only slightly by rps10b-1 in both wild-type and max2-1 backgrounds. However, rps10b-1 strongly suppressed the auxin resistant outgrowth of max2-1 buds. A developmental phenotype of rps10b-1, reduced stamen number, was complemented by the cDNA of another family member, RPS10C, under the RPS10B promoter.
RPS10B promotes shoot branching mainly by promoting axillary shoot development. It contributes to organ boundary formation and leaf polarity, and sustains max2-1 bud outgrowth in the presence of auxin. These processes require the auxin response machinery and precise spatial distribution of auxin. The correct dosage of protein(s) involved in auxin-mediated patterning may be RPS10B-dependent. Inability of other RPS10 gene family members to maintain fully S10e levels might cause the rps10b-1 phenotype, as we found no evidence for unique functional specialisation of either RPS10B promoter or RPS10B protein.
PMCID: PMC3492191  PMID: 22963533
Shoot branching suppressor; S10e; Axillary bud; Leaf polarity; Lateral organ boundary; Auxin; Strigolactone; CUC; REV
6.  Auxin, cytokinin and the control of shoot branching 
Annals of Botany  2011;107(7):1203-1212.
It has been known for many decades that auxin inhibits the activation of axillary buds, and hence shoot branching, while cytokinin has the opposite effect. However, the modes of action of these two hormones in branching control is still a matter of debate, and their mechanisms of interaction are equally unresolved.
Here we review the evidence for various hypotheses that have been put forward to explain how auxin and cytokinin influence axillary bud activity. In particular we discuss the roles of auxin and cytokinin in regulating each other's synthesis, the cell cycle, meristem function and auxin transport, each of which could affect branching. These different mechanisms have implications for the main site of hormone action, ranging from systemic action throughout the plant, to local action at the node or in the bud meristem or leaves. The alternative models have specific predictions, and our increasing understanding of the molecular basis for hormone transport and signalling, cell cycle control and meristem biology is providing new tools to enable these predictions to be tested.
PMCID: PMC3091808  PMID: 21504914
Shoot branching; axillary bud; dormancy; auxin; cytokinin; canalization; polar auxin transport stream; cell cycle
7.  Strigolactone regulation of shoot branching in chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflorum) 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;61(11):3069-3078.
Previous studies of highly branched mutants in pea (rms1–rms5), Arabidopsis thaliana (max1–max4), petunia (dad1–dad3), and rice (d3, d10, htd1/d17, d14, d27) identified strigolactones or their derivates (SLs), as shoot branching inhibitors. This recent discovery offers the possibility of using SLs to regulate branching commercially, for example, in chrysanthemum, an important cut flower crop. To investigate this option, SL physiology and molecular biology were studied in chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflorum), focusing on the CCD8/MAX4/DAD1/RMS1/D10 gene. Our results suggest that, as has been proposed for Arabidopsis, the ability of SLs to inhibit bud activity depends on the presence of a competing auxin source. The chrysanthemum SL biosynthesis gene, CCD8 was cloned, and found to be regulated in a similar, but not identical way to known CCD8s. Expression analyses revealed that DgCCD8 is predominantly expressed in roots and stems, and is up-regulated by exogenous auxin. Exogenous SL can down-regulate DgCCD8 expression, but this effect can be overridden by apical auxin application. This study provides evidence that SLs are promising candidates to alter the shoot branching habit of chrysanthemum.
PMCID: PMC2892150  PMID: 20478970
Auxin; CCD8; chrysanthemum; shoot branching; strigolactone
8.  pax1-1 partially suppresses gain-of-function mutations in Arabidopsis AXR3/IAA17 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:20.
The plant hormone auxin exerts many of its effects on growth and development by controlling transcription of downstream genes. The Arabidopsis gene AXR3/IAA17 encodes a member of the Aux/IAA family of auxin responsive transcriptional repressors. Semi-dominant mutations in AXR3 result in an increased amplitude of auxin responses due to hyperstabilisation of the encoded protein. The aim of this study was to identify novel genes involved in auxin signal transduction by screening for second site mutations that modify the axr3-1 gain-of-function phenotype.
We present the isolation of the partial suppressor of axr3-1 (pax1-1) mutant, which partially suppresses almost every aspect of the axr3-1 phenotype, and that of the weaker axr3-3 allele. axr3-1 protein turnover does not appear to be altered by pax1-1. However, expression of an AXR3::GUS reporter is reduced in a pax1-1 background, suggesting that PAX1 positively regulates AXR3 transcription. The pax1-1 mutation also affects the phenotypes conferred by stabilising mutations in other Aux/IAA proteins; however, the interactions are more complex than with axr3-1.
We propose that PAX1 influences auxin response via its effects on AXR3 expression and that it regulates other Aux/IAAs secondarily.
PMCID: PMC1855327  PMID: 17430601
9.  Root system architecture determines fitness in an Arabidopsis mutant in competition for immobile phosphate ions but not for nitrate ions. 
Plant root systems often have complex branching patterns. Models indicate that a complex architecture is only required for the acquisition of immobile resources, such as phosphate; mobile ions, notably nitrate, can be effectively taken up by very restricted root systems. We have tested this prediction using the axr4 mutation of Arabidopsis thaliana, the principal phenotypic effect of which is to reduce the number of lateral roots. Arabidopsis thaliana is not a host for mycorrhizal fungi and so acquires all its nutrients through the root system. In both a pot experiment and a field experiment conducted under natural conditions for A. thaliana, we found that only phosphate, and not nitrate, affected the fitness of the mutant relative to the isogenic wild-type line, Columbia. These results confirm model predictions and have implications both for the evolution of complex root systems and for the design of efficient root systems for crops.
PMCID: PMC1691122  PMID: 12396500
10.  Functional Genomics at the Arabidopsis Meeting 
Yeast (Chichester, England)  2000;17(3):235-237.
PMCID: PMC2448372  PMID: 11025535

Results 1-10 (10)